One Thousand White Women (One Thousand White Women Series)

by Jim Fergus

Paperback, 1999




St. Martin's Griffin (1999), Edition: 1st, 464 pages


An Indian request in 1854 for 1,000 white brides to ensure peace is secretly approved by the U.S. government in this alternate-history novel. Their journey west is described by May Dodd, a high-society woman released from an asylum where she was incarcerated by her family for an affair.

User reviews

LibraryThing member delphica
(#16 in the 2007 book challenge)

Okay, this was just silly. The occupation of the Black Hills and the forced relocation of the Cheyenne (and others) to inadequate reservations are a decidedly low point in American public policy. This novel would have us believe that the two most compelling points to take away from this are:
1. This would be really awful if it happened to white women.
2. Dude, Indians do it doggie-style!

Grade: F. Stupid.
Recommended: Good grief.
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LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
Reminds me of nothing so much as the sequel to Clan of the Cave Bear. ?A naive reader might think she's learning something, but really it's a pastiche of romance, erotica, and racism. ?á

?áYes, racism. ?áEven though Fergus took pains to do his research and to portray his characters of all 'races' as complex individuals and as members of peoples with both 'bad' and 'good' customs, he just doesn't get it. ?áFor example, he apologizes in advance for any errors he may make in transcribing the language of the Cheyenne, but not for any misunderstandings of their cultural practices... and boy he writes of those practices as if he has the knowledge of a tribal elder. ?á

And the dialect he puts in the women's mouths - at least, the Irish, Swiss, and Southern women. ?áThe less exotic women speak in perfect English. ?áOf course this is all told in the journals of May... are we really to believe she scribbled over campfire-light italics to indicate the loyke us and the mahself every time she recorded her companion's language?

I don't even want to talk about Euphemia, aka Black White Woman.

Other things trouble me. ?áThe southern belle clings to her memories and her flask (a magical self-filling flask, apparently, btw) until she's gang-raped by another nation. ?áThen her Cheyenne husband patiently nurses her, and all of a sudden she's happy and glowing and fully assimilated to the savage way of life.... ?á?á

I finished because I wanted to find some redeeming value. ?áI'm sure the author meant well. ?áBut ... fail ... another day of my life, lost.
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LibraryThing member crazy4reading
I enjoyed reading a fiction book mixed with facts about the Native Americans and the White men. This is one subject I am very interested in since my children are part Native American on their father's side.

One Thousand White Women is a work of fiction about if white women were given to the Native Americans mainly the Cheyenne's. The belief of the Native Americans is that all babies belong to the woman's tribe. The American Government decides that this is a great way to assimilate the Indians to the white man's world.

As I read this book I found myself getting very interested in the characters. You meet many different white women. I found them very interesting. You have some that are very independent, some shy, some different and some just crazy. The characters are well dimensioned. As the story progresses you learn a lot about the women and how strong they really are. Some of the women really start to discover themselves.

It was interesting to learn some customs of the Native Americans. Some were a little scary. I also found the similarities between the white man's thinking and the Indian's thinking very interesting. The Indian's feel that the man is superior to women and are left out of a few things. Their is one women who realizes this and dose some things to enlighten the Indians. The women is May Dodd and these are her journal entries.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
This novel is built on the premise that in 1875 the Cheyenne tribe made an agreement with the Grant administration to bring 1000 white women to their lands as sort of mail-order brides in order to promote amity and civilization of the natives. The government finds some volunteers and fills out the allotment of 1000 women with inmates from prisons and insane asylums. The book is written as diary entries and letters from one of the latter, a woman named May Dodd placed in an asylum by her well-off family because she lived out of wedlock and bore children to a man of a lower class.

The positive aspects of this book is that it while May and her compatriots find love and much to admire in their new home, they Cheyenne are not idealized (a la Dances With Wolves). May while appreciating her new husband and free lifestyle never stops referring to the Indians as savages. The book comes to a sad but inevitable end as the Americans lust for land leads to the conquest of the Cheyenne, white women included.

This book was better than I expected as I thought it would be a more flippant farce. I did find that Fergus as a male author failed to write convincingly in the female voice. For example, May suffers some traumatic experiences that are rather casually put behind her. Still, it's a unique framing for a historical novel and an enjoyable read.
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LibraryThing member suztales
Because the premise of the book is so outrageous, I wasn't sure what to expect. I found I quickly became immersed in the story, and let my imagination run with it. But before I was halfway through, I became certain the author had not endowed May Dodd with a truly feminine voice; her thought process, it seemed, was definitely male. Fergus, however, did a good job of presenting the Cheyenne culture and life style fairly and authentically. I have read much American Indian history, fiction and nonfiction, and have always been fascinated by it. His description of the U.S. Army in that period also seemed close to the mark. I think the most amazing thing about this novel is that its concept is so original! I enjoyed it.… (more)
LibraryThing member lisatimbers
I enjoyed this book very much, though it wasn't very challenging. and I'm not sure how much research was put into it. A good beach read, I'd say. The treatment of gay people in the tribe, as well as the treatment of the insane, made me want to check on the facts. Too bad our own society doesn't revere the "abnormal" similarly.
LibraryThing member readingrat
Interesting premise, but... the author never quite pulls it off. There was never a moment once the "diary" entries started that I felt that this was anything other than straight-up fiction. The main character had just too many modern sensibilities to be believable. The remaining characters tended to be stereotypes of their ethnicity/religion. There really weren't any surprises here but I have to say that the story did flow well and did a decent job of holding the reader's interest.… (more)
LibraryThing member santhony
It would seem that at some point in the 1870s, during the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, a collection of Native American chieftains traveled to Washington for the purpose of negotiating a treaty. One of these was a Cheyenne leader named Little Wolf. As part of the negotiations, Little Wolf requested that his tribe be supplied with 1,000 white women, in an effort to assist in the assimilation of the Cheyenne peoples with the white man. Predictably, the request was met with derision and horror. In this alternative history, the request was clandestinely granted.

The book takes the form of a journal written by May Dodd, a member of the first (and only) wave of white women provided the Cheyenne. The women sent to the Cheyenne were a motley crew of prostitutes, lunatics and other undesirables (with a few interesting exceptions). The story describes the white women’s efforts to survive the Cheyenne lifestyle and adapt to a totally foreign way of life.

The most common complaint in many of the unflattering reviews of this book is the stereotypical nature of the characters. While it is true that many of the characters are stereotypes, the fact is that stereotypes develop for a good reason. While stereotypical, by and large, the characters are believable in my opinion. The book is entertaining, and while not a great work of literature, it is worthwhile nonetheless. It is a quick and easy, captivating read.
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LibraryThing member tkmess
Loved the lively characters in this book - strong women and colorful people. An interesting look at how we view other cultures and tend to stereotype as "good" or "bad" when in reality, all cultures are a mix of both.
LibraryThing member Brandie
Let me say, great book. I thoroughly enjoyed it! I actually picked this book up some time ago, and couldn't even stand it to finish the first chapter! I am so glad I picked it up again. So many interesting things in the book and perspectives. I highly recommend it!
LibraryThing member kalobo
I was really intrigued by the premise of this novel, but when I began to read it, its florid style of writing really irritated me and I never finished it. The author was evidently trying for a style true to the mid-1800 time period but I've seen it done much more fluently. The book felt awkward to me.
LibraryThing member cwmlcampbell
This was a great book, but be prepared, although it is fiction, you come away really upset with the way our ancestors treated the Native Americans, and it makes you want to learn more, the real truth, not just the sugar coated stuff that what was crammed into our heads in High School History Class.
LibraryThing member carmen29
One of my all-time favorite books. It is a story that draws you in and makes you forget you're reading fiction.
LibraryThing member Kiri
A well written and lively "alter-verse" (if you will) Historical Fiction re-telling of the proposed "Brides for Indians" pact of September 1874, when the heads of the Cheyenne tribes, including Chief Little Wolf (the Sweet Medicine Chief) and others, journeyed to Washington D.C. with a proposal for President Ulysses S. Grant. They presented their plan to give the government one thousand horses in exchange for one thousand white women. Hoping to end the fighting between the white man and Indians on the American plains, the Cheyenne felt that if white women could merge with their tribe and bear children of mixed blood, the new children might bond the two races. (The Cheyenne are matrilineal) Indians and whites would then begin to truly assimilate and learn to live together peacefully.

While a distinctly fictional account that is not truly representative of the original time-period this will take the reader into a facsimile of the period that may well lead them to want to know more - which is never a bad thing! Jim Fergus does a decent job of writing in the voice of his main character - May Dodd, providing his reader with a viewpoint of the time and personages involved with an interestingly deft hand. I enjoyed the portrayals of native living and the contrasts shown between the cultures.

An enjoyable read. =)
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LibraryThing member tloeffler
A great book, based on a "what if" history story. It really made me think about our country's past.
LibraryThing member lookingforpenguins
Ugh. Good writing style, terrible concept: Post-Civil War, President Grant approves a program to marry off women from the dregs of society (ie, mental institutions, jails, ex-slaves, alcoholics, etc) to a tribe of Native Americans in order to create a mixed-race. Supposedly, this is meant to make the assimilate the Native Americans into our new American culture within a generation as the women reproduce with the Native Americans.

It's probably one of the worst historical fiction books I've ever read. Immensely demeaning to women, the protagonist is probably supposed to be a spirited woman far ahead of her time. I found her insulting and could never connect with her on any level. The author clearly means to present Native Americans in a sympathetic light, as well, but only succeeds in perpetuating too many stereotypes.

I'd like to be able to say that the storyline improved by the end of the book, but unfortunately, I never made it that far.
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LibraryThing member judithwines
An engaging read - the journal format caused me to have to remind myself that it is a work of fiction. I liked it because I learned a bit about the history of the cheyenne, but was put off by what struck me as the token nature of some of the characters. The black women was wholly the product of her slave experience, the irish twins were very irish, etc.… (more)
LibraryThing member ctait17
Very interesting historical novel of the relationship between whites and Native Americans after the Civil War, the beginning of the reservation system
LibraryThing member melissagagnon
I read this book on my way to Punta canta summer 08. I had just finished my thesis which was about journaling. I loved the book until I realized that it was fiction. I was dissapointed because journaling is such a personal thing that it should never be made up. I enjoyed the story other wise.
LibraryThing member zina
Based in fact - unbelievable hardship, heroism and fascinating western history tale.
LibraryThing member vnovak
An alternate historical fiction book in which the U.S. government trades white brides to the Cheyenne Indians for horses. Told in diary format with humor and sadness. Readalike for "These is my words".
LibraryThing member lrobe190
An Indian request in 1854 for 1,000 white brides to ensure peace is secretly approved by the U.S. government in this alternate-history novel. Their journey west is described by May Dodd, a high-society woman released from an asylum where she was incarcerated by her family for an affair. Based on an actual historical event ... told through fictional diaries.

Fergus tells a compelling story. He takes just a scrap of actual historical fact and turns it into a believable adventure.
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LibraryThing member KC9333
1000 White women are promised to the Cheyenne as an opportunity for the two cultures to come together.....a true request never honored in history becomes a super what if story.....paints a vivid picture of the American West and never sugarcoats .....the struggles of the women learning to adapt to the Cheyenne ways and the autrocities committed against the Indians make for an engaging page turner....… (more)
LibraryThing member cestovatela
Imagine that the Native American tribesmen of the Western plains requested 1,000 white brides to help bring peace between Indians and the U.S. government. Further imagine that the government agreed. Fergus has a lot of potentially intriguing material to explore here, but the plot is so dizzingly action-packed that it's difficult to get a handle on any of the characters. Worse, Fergus seems to have almost no understanding of how to write from a woman's perspective. A female editor might have clued him in that women don't get over gang rape in the space of a single page and pregnant characters might mention their baby-to-be more than once every 50 pages.… (more)
LibraryThing member Jeanomario
This book plays with your mind! Not a bad thing, but what was real and what has been fictionalized needs clarification. The book's introduction does a good job of reviewing the historical context of the proposed integration program. With that premise, the character of May comes alive. I anticipated romance at points along the way, but Fergus doesn't go there. The harshness of the prairie climate mirrors the harshness of the people's suspicions and intolerance. Told from a realistic point of view, the characters are distinct and believable.… (more)


Original language


Original publication date

March 15th 1998

Physical description

8.25 inches


0312199430 / 9780312199432
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